Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 22 November 2018

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Q. I am organising my 30th birthday party weekend at a large country house kindly lent to me by friends of my parents. The house sleeps 25. I’m drawing up a plan for bedroom distribution, and find myself in a predicament because there is a large disparity regarding the luxuriousness of the bedrooms. Some have stunning sea views with four-posters, claw-footed bathtubs and chandeliers, while others are converted servants’ rooms, have sloping attic ceilings, single beds, shared bathrooms and views of the car park. How do I allocate the bedrooms without causing offence to the ‘losers’? The truth is that the grander ones would suffer much more from the discomfort of the bad rooms than the ones unused to luxury.

— B. R., Fulham, London

A. Before you go, have a conversation with your closest friends outlining the situation. Adopt a conspiratorial air as you propose allotting them the worst bedrooms, explaining that this is because you feel closer and more comfortable with them than other guests whom you may be seeking to impress or propitiate. These friends will then feel smug at this testament to your intimacy and virtuous in their sense of loyalty to you as they happily accept the sacrifice and gain another sort of status from their ‘bad’ room.

Q. A new colleague has been given a desk directly behind me and spends most of his time on noisy conference calls. This would be irritating enough, but he also constantly uses the reflexive pronoun incorrectly (e.g. ‘I will give that to yourself’), along with other peculiar business jargon. My colleagues and I find this overly grandiose language particularly grating. Mary, in our new colleague’s own language, how can we ‘solutionise’ this?

— Name and address withheld

A. Why not ask him if he has done a business training course? Say you are all fascinated by his jargon and are sure there could be a market for a ‘Little Book of Management Speak’ which you could co-author? Does he mind if you jot down some of his jargon? He will become self-conscious when he sees you scribbling away and should start to self-censor.

Q. My Generation Z son is far from being a snowflake. In fact he is so arrogant that he assumes nothing bad can happen to him on his gap-year trip to Latin America. What should I do?

— Name and address withheld

A. A chic soft-leather wallet for outwitting pickpockets has just come onto the market. It can be packed with a telephone, money and passport, and then attached to a belt loop and worn inside clothing. Buy him one of these for £37 from Insist he wears it during the flight: criminals now buy cheap air tickets for gap-year flights to dodgy places so that they can rummage in the overhead lockers while the gappies are safely asleep.